Marc Colombo knew it would probably take some time for the offensive line to come together. There isn’t a single player among the starting five who is lined up next to someone they lined up next to last year, they have a rookie starting at left tackle, and a first-time center in the middle of it all. Continuity was not a strong point for this group heading into the season.
"We’re thousands and thousands of reps behind," Colombo, the offensive line coach for the Giants, said on Tuesday. "We need to get a million reps at this stuff. It’s going to get better. We just have to keep pushing and have this stuff show up on Sunday… It needs to start translating."
Because after three weeks of watching his guys flail away on the field, unable to open holes for any of the running backs, uncertain of assignments against some of the most basic twists and stunts that defenders keep throwing at them, Colombo has seen enough.
"We’re at a point now where we are going into Game 4, this stuff should be ironed out," he said. "It’s our job this week to iron it out and move forward and get some more consistent play out of this group … We need to see better jumps. We can’t baby crawl through this thing, right? We need to start seeing some big jumps. And we’re at a point now where we should start seeing that."
The players agree with that, too.
"We want to be better," center Nick Gates said Monday following the latest loss to the 49ers. We don’t want to go out there and lose. We don’t want to go out there and not run the ball. We’re not trying to go out there and play bad… It is frustrating when you go out there and you can’t run the ball and you can’t protect well. It’s frustrating."
It’s bad enough that the Giants are last in the NFL with 170 rushing yards through three games, but what makes it worse is that 92 of those yards have come from Daniel Jones. Some of his runs are designed, others have him fleeing collapsed pockets. Those gains should be extras, though, not the essence of the running game.
The Giants have gained just 72 yards on 40 carries when handing off to their running backs. Even with Saquon Barkley in there for a game and a half, that’s 1.8 yards per carry, or about three inches less than they would gain if 5-8 running back Dion Lewis simply stood at the line of scrimmage and fell forward.
"It’s tough to play really physical in the passing game," Colombo said. "We have to do better in the run. Period. That’s where we’re falling short right now. It’s going to alleviate a lot of stuff in the passing game. That’s something we have to do. We have to do it early. We can’t wait to crank it up. It’s just getting more production out of the run game."
What can be done to fix this? The Giants can change personnel. They drafted two young players they are very keen on, tackle Matt Peart and interior lineman Shane Lemieux. Perhaps give them a shot?
"I don’t think we’re there yet," Colombo said.
They’d be back to square one with their continuity issues if they did that. Plus, with no offseason program, the young players may not be ready.
"To them it’s really like the third preseason game," Colombo said. "They just have to keep developing. We’re going to keep giving them shots in practice… create competition, and see where it shakes out."
The only other option is to get smarter and more experienced. Those stunts that baffled them against the 49ers? This week’s opponent, the Rams, saw the same inability to block them properly.
"They just have to do a better job of seeing it and recognizing it really quick," Colombo said. "It’s something that has hurt us and we have to do a better job. I have to do a better job coaching it up and keep pushing these guys to be able to handle this. They can handle it. They just have to see it and they have to react a lot faster.
So the five who have been struggling, to put it softly, have to get better. Fast. With Aaron Donald waiting for them on Sunday.
That process will start at practice on Wednesday.
"Obviously we’re not where we need to be yet, but we’re going to come in here and really work [Wednesday], really get this thing right," Colombo said. "We’re going to push them. We’re going to push them really hard this week to come out and play great."
Notes & quotes: The Giants will sign CB Madre Harper off the Raiders practice squad, a source confirmed. NFL Network first reported the expected acquisition, which won’t be official until Harper clears his COVID testing and passes his physical on Thursday at the earliest … Running backs coach Burton Burns was pleased with Devonta Freeman’s first game with the Giants. "We planned on just kind of easing him into it," Burns said on Tuesday. "We got him 15 snaps and I think he did well. The guy’s a quick learner so we expect him to be a lot more involved with knowledge of the offense this coming week." ... The Giants terminated the practice squad contracts of QB Cooper Rush and RB Rod Smith, according to the league's transaction wire.